Garmin Approach S40 hands-on: Affordable golf watch with 24/7 activity capability

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  • $299.99

Garmin is known for GPS products across a number of sectors, including marine, automotive, aviation, athletics, and more. One of its sports and fitness markets is golf and in that area Garmin has smartwatches, laser range finders, handheld golf computers, a swing analyzer, and even golf club trackers to provide you with all of the data and analysis you need to improve your golf game.

A couple of weeks ago Garmin announced the new Garmin Approach S40 and I played 18 holes at a local course last weekend to test out this new golf-focused wearable. I was pleased with the ease-of-use, accuracy, and information provided, but also think I would need the Garmin CT10 club tracking system to optimize the experience if I golfed more than three to five times a year.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Approach S40 isn't limited just to golf, but can be used as a daily activity tracker and even as a basic GPS sports watch for running and other activities. It's not optimized for those other activities, but it does well with tracking and syncing the data to the Garmin Connect system, with some limitations.

See also: Garmin Fenix 5X Plus review: Champion multi-sport GPS watch with music, Garmin Pay, and advanced sleep tracking

Specifications

  • Display: 1.2 inch color touchscreen display, 240x240 pixels, made of chemically strengthened glass
  • Materials: Metal bezel, plastic casing, and silicone quick-release watch band
  • Wireless: Bluetooth and GPS
  • Water resistance: 5 ATM water and dust resistant rating
  • Battery life: Up to 10 days in smartwatch mode and up to 15 hours in GPS mode
  • Dimensions: 43.4 x 43.4 x 11.7mm and 43 grams

Hardware

The Garmin Approach S40 has a 1.2 inch color touchscreen display, unlike the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus I own. The display has proven to be very responsive and recognizes my touch every time.

I tested out the black stainless steel model with a black silicone band, but you can also purchase a stainless steel one with powder gray band or light gold one with white band. The black one has the first nine holes around the bezel in orange and the second nine hole numbers are colored white. There is one physical button on the top right side of the Approach S40 with an orange ring around the button.

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There is no heart rate monitor on the back with only the four Garmin pins to charge up the device located off to one side. Quick release pins are part of the silicone band so you can easily swap out different 22mm bands.

See also: Garmin announces Approach G80 GPS golf handheld: Advanced swing metrics and gaming modes

The Garmin Approach S40 is very light at just 43 grams and it was wonderful to play a game of golf with a watch that I could barely feel on my wrist. I have only charged the watch once in the past 10 days of testing with one four hour golf game and one 35 minute run so the rated battery life seems accurate.

Watch software

When the Approach S40 turns on, the first thing you see is the watch face. There are seven available options for watch faces that are managed and selected right on the watch. To change the watch face, press and hold the button on the Approach S40 and then swipe up on the touch screen to access the watch face setting.

Swipe up or down to scroll through various widgets loaded on the Approach S40. Note that the S40 is not a ConnectIQ-enabled device so you cannot install custom watch faces, data fields, or widgets. The widgets installed on the S40 include notifications, steps taken, last recorded golf game, calendar, sunrise/sunset, and weather.

Pressing and holding the button on the S40 gives you access to golf settings, do not disturb toggle, lock screen, watch face, and phone connection toggle. There is a gear icon at the bottom of this list that gives you access to auto lock, backlight toggle, activity tracking toggle, manage widgets, user profile, language, time, units, reset, and about.

Golf settings include scoring toggle, start tracking toggle, club prompt, scoring method, handicap scoring, driver distance, big numbers, and club sensors.

From the main display showing the watch face, press the hardware button once and most of the display will be taken up by the words Play Golf and and a flag icon. Tap that and you can get started with a game of golf. I love that the watch has 18 holes shown around the bezel and when you are golfing the hole you are on is highlighted on the edge of the display.

More than 41,000 golf courses are pre-loaded on the Garmin Approach S40 and all of my local ones appeared within seconds of launching the golf game option. Once you start a game, the hole number, distances to the front and back of the green, distance to the flag, and a graphical representation of the green appear on the first display. Tap on the green image to then move the flag around in case it is not in the location that appears by default. The distance to the flag will update if you move it around the green.

Tap the small down arrow at the bottom of the display and more details of the approach to the green will appear. This data includes distances to the rough, 100 layup, 150 layup, 200 layup, 250 layup, bunker, and other key features of the hole you are playing. Press the physical button while playing a hole to see options to change the hole, view the scorecard, see round info (steps, distance, and time), measure your last shot, save your location, view sunrise and sunset times, and end the round.

As you hit and advance through the hole, your swing count is captured with easy large plus and minus signs to change the number of swings in case the Approach S40 isn't perfect at capturing every swing. You can also go back and edit your strokes while golfing to make sure everything is captured correctly. The distances are also updated as your progress so you always know exactly where you are and how far you have to hit to reach the green.

Instead of starting a golf game, you can tap the four color dot icon below the words Play Golf and options for activity, stopwatch, timer, alarm clock, find phone, and TruSwing appear. TruSwing is another Garmin sensor that helps you refine your swing. Supported activities include walk, run, and bike. Options within these three activities include auto lap, auto pause, and GPS on/off.

When one of these activities is started you will see three data fields with timer, distance, pace, steps, calories, lap time, lap pace, speed, and average speed. The fields that appear depend on which of the three activities you select.

See also: Arccos 360 review: Can an AI caddie improve your golf game?

Sleep tracking takes place automatically and when you sync to your phone and Garmin Connect you will see the data captured by the Approach S40. In my experiences the data matched other wearables I have, but without a heart rate sensor on the back of the S40 you will not see any REM phase for sleep.

Smartphone apps

Two apps are required to use the Garmin Approach S40 to its full extent, Garmin Connect and Garmin Golf. Garmin Connect is used to control the sync of the watch and capture all of the data collected by the watch, beyond just the golf data. Garmin Golf is required too and provides a larger view of the course and each hole. Data from the S40 is synced to the phone so you can edit your scorecard on the phone or the watch as you golf. You do not need to actively use your phone as you golf, but it might help you understand the layout of the course if you are golfing on a new course.

The Garmin Golf app also shows the leaderboard, all of your scorecards, your performance stats, club performance (provided you have the CT10 club trackers installed), and basic settings for your Approach S40.

All of the other data you expect to see, including run tracking results, steps taken, sleep tracked, and more appear in the Garmin Connect app. Golf and all other activity data is synced through the Garmin Connect app up to the Garmin Connect website.

The Garmin Connect website mirrors the smartphone app for the most part with scorecards, performance stats, golf courses, leaderboards, and swing analysis shown in the golf section.

Pricing and availability

The Garmin Approach S40 should be available in the next couple of weeks for $299.99. There is also a bundle with three CT10 club trackers available for $369.99.

Conclusions

Over the last couple of years as I've started playing more golf, I've been using an Apple Watch or one of my Garmin GPS sports watches for golf tracking. The Garmin Fenix 5 Plus connects to the Garmin Golf app and supports golf as an activity, although it does not yet support the CT10 club trackers. The Garmin discussion forums show that an update supporting the CT10 sensors was recently provided for the Fenix 5 series so hopefully the Plus series gets this soon too.

The Fenix 5 Plus has a higher water resistant rating, is double the weight of the Approach S40, supports offline music, and has more connectivity and sensors inside. When we look at both from a golf perspective, we see that the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus only lacks support for custom green targets, handicap scoring, and automatic club tracking sensors. Thus, once an update comes with the CT10 support I may spend my money buying these sensors and then use my Fenix 5 Plus for golfing.

The Garmin Approach S40 is a rather affordable option for tracking all of the details of golf and helping one improve their game. It is a lightweight wearable that should be comfortable to all and can even be used as a GPS sports watch for select sports.

Specifications

Miscellaneous
Color Category black
Color black, stainless steel
Body Material metal
Protection waterproof
Battery
Run Time (Up To) 15 hour(s)
Technology lithium ion
Style
Product type Golf watch
Header
Brand Garmin
Product Line Garmin Approach
Packaged Quantity 1
General
Tracking Data distance, speed, time
CE Input Device
Type touch sensitive screen
Band
Fits Wrist Size 125-202 mm
Dimensions & Weight
Width 1.7 in
Depth 0.5 in
Height 1.7 in
Weight 1.52 oz
Battery Life Details
Usage Mode operating mode
Run Time (Up To) 15 hour(s), 240 hour(s)
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty

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Where To Buy

Garmin Approach S40 (black with black stainless)

Part Number: 010-02140-01
Price
$299.99